Botanical Name Protea Cynaroides
Native To South Africa
Potentially my favourite flower of all time, King Protea (prow·tee·uh). It's massive. It's resilient. It's stem is like bark from a 10 year old tree. Its petals are like soft velvet and it's pistils feel like one of those stainless steel wire handheld scalp massagers that mall-kiosk employees try to sell you on as you walk by.
It was discovered by none other than the father of taxonomy (the naming of things) Carl Linnaeus in 1735. He named it after Proteus, the greek god generally regarded as the son of the sea-god Poseidon. The reason the protea received these honours is because the proteas are often like the deity; a shape-shifter. There are over 1500 varieties of protea thus highlighting the variety of plants found within the large proteaceae family.
Although it was discovered in 1735, it actually dates back more than 300 million years. It's considered one of the oldest families of the flowering plant on the planet. How amazing is that? One of the first flowers ever is also one of the most beautiful. Perhaps it has been able to survive so long is because they are one of the most resilient plants on the planet. The dormant buds of the protea can survive wildfires and other potentially catastrophic events that have impacted earth since its formation. It also doesn't necessarily need water to survive either. Over 300 million years, a plant can learn a thing or two about resiliency, and the toughest of them survived and further propagated. The biggest way that it was made resilient is also one of the most beautiful features of this flower; the soft, velvet like texture of its bloom. This part of the protea is called the bract. The bract evolved to have this texture because it is the best way for the protea to collect water to feed itself. King proteas gets all their water from fog. The bracts absorb moist which collects on their surface. How cool is that?
The King Protea was proclaimed as South Africa's national flower in 1976. According to the South African government, the flower is "an emblem of the beauty of our land and the flowering of our potential as a nation in pursuit of the African Renaissance”… in other words, it’s breathtaking.
These flowers make for particularly stunning focal pieces on an arrangement and they also dry out really nicely when they have run their course as a living entity. Once it's time to switch out your bouquet, take the protea and put it in a dry vase with some other greens and you have yourself a new centrepiece for the kitchen, living room, or just about anywhere you can imagine.
Next time you have a soft, velvety protea in your bouquet, just remember that it evolved that way to survive... more than 300 million years ago. If that isn't amazing, I'm not really sure what is.
Lifespan 5 to 7 days in water, and an infinite duration when dried.
Blooming Season Annual - Fall + Winter
Varieties There are over 1,500 different varieties of protea.